Now that Thanksgiving is over can we talk Christmas cookies? To be perfectly honest, I often find baking Christmas cookies exhausting. With all of the busyness of the holiday, taking time to bake cookies that simply bring another source of ready to eat sugar into the house is far down on my list. Yet, without fail, there is always an office party, a cookie exchange, a visiting neighbor, or some unforeseen event that calls for cookies.

This year, things got rolling early, with an afternoon tea which needed a supply of cookies. In search of inspiration I turned to the cookbook which led to the lovely Orange Kissed Oatmeal Raisin cookies, “Great Cookies, Secrets to Sensational Sweets“. Once again, it delivered a winning recipe for Brown Sugar Cookies. If you are looking for a gift for anyone who likes to bake, this cookbook would be a perfect choice.

The beauty of these brown sugar cookies, is that the dough can be made far ahead of time and stored in the fridge, or even in the freezer. If a cookie emergency arises during the holidays you can simply warm up a knife, slice off a few rounds of frozen dough, place them in the oven, and poof- warm cookies in less than 30 minutes. If that isn’t a secret weapon for surviving the holidays, I don’t know what is! (Well besides a good bottle of bourbon.) The recipe makes about 7 dozen cookies, enough to cover all the bases for office parties, afternoon teas, and anything else that comes your way. Once baked, the cookies will maintain their flavor for weeks, allowing you to bake when you have time rather than on a set schedule.

Brown sugar cookies have a subtle nutty flavor thanks to a generous amount of brown sugar and ground pecans. They are crisp around the edges with a slight chew in the center. You can brush an egg wash on the dough and sprinkle toasted pecans, chocolate chunks, candied ginger, or anything else you can think of on top to add interest (and to make the same batch of cookie dough wear different hats). Surprisingly, my favorite way to eat the cookies was plain, without any adornment. Dunked in a glass of cold milk, tucked next to a tea cup, or broken over a bowl of ice cream they add the perfect sweet crunch to finish a meal.

If you are looking for a way to beat the holiday craziness, whip up a batch of brown sugar cookies and know that when the last minute cookie demands pop up, you have a secret weapon ready to go.

Brown Sugar Cookies (Printable Recipe)
Adapted from “Great Cookies, Secrets to Sensational Sweets
Makes Approximately 7 dozen Cookies
Note: The dough should be made a minimum of 2 hours before baking. It can hold for 3 days in the fridge and up to 1 month in the freezer.

3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups toasted pecans, divided
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, divided, slightly firm
2 cups lightly packed very fresh dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 large egg, lightly beaten with 2 teaspoons of water

Make the Dough Ahead
In a medium bowl, sift together 3 cups of flour, baking soda and salt. Set the bowl aside. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade, combine 1 cup of pecans and 1/4 cup of flour. Pulse the flour and pecans together four or five times, then process for 30 seconds until the pecans are finely chopped. Add the contents of the food processor bowl to the dry ingredients set aside in a medium bowl.

Fit the large bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on low speed until it is smooth. Turn up the speed to medium and add in the brown sugar by large handfuls over 1 minute. Beat the batter for another minute, then add in the vanilla. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating for one minute after each egg. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Turn down the mixer speed to low and pour in the dry ingredients one third at a time, beating only as much as necessary to combine the ingredients after each addition. When all the dry ingredients are incorporated, turn off the mixer.

Shape the dough into three 8-inch long logs that are about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Wrap the dough logs in plastic wrap, rolling the dough toward you as you wrap to create a more cylindrical shape. Twist the ends of the plastic wrap tightly to keep the plastic wrap rolled around the log. Place the dough in the fridge for 2 hours or until it is firm. (The dough can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days and in the freezer for 1 month.)

Bake the Cookies
Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees, with racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. Chop the leftover 1/2 cup of pecans into small pieces. With a thin, sharp knife (warmed under hot water if you are slicing frozen cookies) cut the dough into 3/16th inch thick slices, rolling the log of dough every 2 or 3 slices to help keep the round shape. Set the cookies 2 inches apart on cookie sheets lined with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Lightly brush the tops of the cookies with the egg wash and then sprinkle the chopped pecans on top of the cookies. Bake the cookies for 7-8 minutes, or until they are a golden brown color. If your oven does not brown evenly, rotate the sheets from top to bottom and front to back after the first 4 minutes in the oven. Let the cookies cool on the pans outside of the oven for 2-3 minutes, before transferring them with a thin metal spatula to cooling racks.

The cookies can be stored in an airtight container between sheets of wax paper for up to 3 weeks. The cookies may also be frozen after baking.

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